“Professional Courtesy” May Help Indy Cop Escape Hard Time

Friday, August 27th, 2010

I’ve written before about the “professional courtesy” problem, where police officers let fellow officers off the hook for driving while intoxicated (see here, here, and here). The latest example comes from Indianapolis, where on August 6, Officer David Bisard struck two motorcycles stopped at a red light, killing one person and critically injuring two others. Police reports initially blamed the bikers for the accident, though subsequent reports confirm that the motorcyclists were doing exactly what they’re supposed to do when an emergency vehicle approaches. According to the Indianapolis Star, Bisard has an aggressive history on the road. He had more vehicle pursuits than any other cop in Marion County. In two years he’d had 14 such pursuits, with five collisions.

None of the officers who responded on August 6 thought to give Bisard a breath test, or apparently even suspect him of being drunk. At first blush perhaps that’s understandable, given that Bisard was on-duty at the time. But when he was finally given a blood test more than two hours after the accident, he tested at .19. (This is more aggravating when you consider how adept police officers seem to be at detecting booze on citizens who aren’t cops. Last May I was pulled over by an Indiana State Trooper. I’d had two beers over four hours, plus eaten a big dinner, yet he still claimed he was “nearly knocked out by the stench of booze rolling out” of my car. Long story short: I politely asserted my rights and got neither the undeserved DWI, nor the speeding ticket (which I probably deserved)).

Prosecutors initially filed a host of DWI-related charges against Bisard. But on August 19, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi announced he had no choice but to drop the most serious charges because Bisard’s blood had been drawn by an uncertified lab tech. And because none of Brisard’s fellow officers apparently noticed his intoxication at the scene of the accident, there was no admissible evidence that Brisard was drunk when he caused the crash.

In the face of a pretty furious public backlash, there have at least been some consequences: According to the Star, Brisard does still face a lesser charge of reckless homicide, plus added charges of criminal recklessness. IMPD officials dismissed Lt. George Crooks as coordinator of the multiagency Fatal Alcohol Crash Team, and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced last week that Assistant Chief Darryl Pierce, Deputy Chief Ron Hicks, and Commander John Conley would all be demoted for the handling of Bisard’s case.

A final bit of irony:

As a member of the Noblesville Police Department in the late 1990s, he received awards two years in a row from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and won commendations four years in a row.

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21 Responses to ““Professional Courtesy” May Help Indy Cop Escape Hard Time”

  1. #1 |  Bünzli | 

    Actually i find it almost plausible that nobody realized he was drunk at the scene.
    Being that drunk on the job makes me think that Bisard is an alcoholic. He probably needed that amount of alcohol to function with some semblance of normalcy.
    I wonder if he was tested after his other accidents.
    What i find hard to believe is that a cop can be an alcoholic without anybody noticing. Somebody knew and didn’t tell.
    Don’t you just love that “New Professionalims”?

  2. #2 |  Rhayader | 

    MADD is such bullshit — cop worshiping prohibitionists, nothing more.

    And because none of Brisard’s fellow officers apparently noticed his intoxication at the scene of the accident, there was no admissible evidence that Brisard was drunk when he caused the crash.

    No input from EMS-type folks on this one? You’d think they’d have at least checked Bisard out for injuries after he was involved in a fatal accident.

  3. #3 |  JS | 

    Wow. Unbelievable hypocrites. So quick to show mercy towards a fellow member of the priveledged class and yet they are so merciless towards people who aren’t cops.

  4. #4 |  asg | 

    Exactly how did you assert your rights? Refuse a breathalyzer or FST? What did you have to say no to?

  5. #5 |  MacK | 

    Bünzli hit it on the head, for him to function as normal at the accident scene would mean that is how he normally functions.

    If I had a .19 BAC I would barley be able to stand, but a functional drunk would be as steady as a mighty oak on a calm day.

    I do wonder how this will effect any future (possibly past) DWI encounters with the investigating officers. Defense Counselor “This cop can’t even determine a man is drunk at twice the legal limit”. “How can we believe he knew my client was drunk”?

  6. #6 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    When cops start killing the kids of cops over and over…well, it probably won’t change then either.

  7. #7 |  Marty | 

    EMS will generally extend ‘professional courtesy’ to cops in that they’ll assume the cop has enough knowledge to say, ‘I’m ok’, and they’ll believe him, especially if they’ve run calls with him in the past.

    it’s tough working with alcoholics. if the guy’s buddies with the chief, the chief will look the other way. the co-workers see this and they realize the futility of complaining. any time I see stuff like this, I always look to the top- cops, firefighters, and medics don’t want to work with people who’re drunk and put themselves at risk. this guy would’ve been fragged by his co-workers if management (or someone powerful) wasn’t propping him up. it’s easy to frag someone with a clear conscience, because (around here) they’ll be referred to eap initially. you’re not getting someone fired for addiction issues.

  8. #8 |  SJE | 

    I hope that all of the cops who extended the professional courtesy will be professionally fired. If they were extending “professional courtesy” in the wake of a fatal accident, that is nothing less than corruption. If they cannot detect alcohol on a person who is 0.2, two hours later, then they incompetent. Fire their asses.

  9. #9 |  Faceword | 

    Radley, could you explain in a little more detail about how you asserted your rights during the DUI stop? (Maybe this deserves a full post).

    Did you decline the breathalyzer? Demand a blood test?

    I do not know the law on this issue, but I had thought that in some states, if you decline a breathalyzer test you can get the same punishment as a DUI. Is there a state-by-state analysis somewhere on the web about how best to handle a DUI stop?

    Thanks, A Loyal Reader

  10. #10 |  SJE | 

    “Radley, could you explain in a little more detail about how you asserted your rights during the DUI stop?”

    Radley was dressed as a cop from out of state, and requested “professional courtesy.” Thats the only rights cops respect.

  11. #11 |  Bob | 

    I’m still trying to wrap my brain around how much you would have to drink on a constant basis to be high-functioning with a BAC of .19 at noon.

    How does this work? Does anyone know?

    And of course, “Bisard’s blood had been drawn by an uncertified lab tech.” Wow! That was sure convenient!

  12. #12 |  JOR | 

    #8,

    Well professional courtesy per se is just corruption (in the moral sense of corruption, not in the professional or legal sense of corruption, which for a legal nihilist like me is an oxymoron anyway). Either the laws they enforce on everyone else are morally obligatory rules or they’re not. If they are, then they ought to be enforced on cops, and if they’re not, then they ought not be enforced on cops (or anyone else).

    But yeah, this particular instance of corruption is more clearly insane and offensive than the usual.

  13. #13 |  Michael Chaney | 

    I’ve been following this story closely (also being a Hoosier) and there’s even more to it. The Fox affiliate has been on this like a swarm of bees, and they produced video showing Bisard talking in close proximity with all of the higher-ups at the scene – close enough that they obviously smelled the rolling brewery.

    He also bought vodka at a CVS while in uniform the night before, and they’re getting that tape together.

    Lt. George Crooks is also probably getting his job back since the FACT wasn’t even called to the scene (remember, the ruse here is that nobody noticed that Bisard was drunk, so no need to call the alc squad).

    The prosecutor is part of the scam, too. He didn’t have to drop charges so quickly. He could challenge the law if he wanted.

    Something we often note is that the problem isn’t just “a few bad apples”. The fact is that every officer at that scene, which included a chain to the top, covered for Bisard. Extrapolating from that, 100% of the Indy cops are corrupt. It’s a mess.

  14. #14 |  MikeZ | 

    “Radley, could you explain in a little more detail about how you asserted your rights during the DUI stop?”

    I gotta admit to a little curiosity here as well. Asserting your rights (refusing a breathalyser) in my state will get your license automatically suspended.

  15. #15 |  Michael Chaney | 

    Actually, “asserting your rights” might be by demanding a breathalyzer to stop the stupid “field test”.

  16. #16 |  Jenny | 

    I was assuming the same thing as Michael Chaney – I would assert my rights by demanding a breathalyzer to stop the stupid “field test” – I can’t pass a field test dead sober because I have absolutely no coordination. I have the right to empirical proof that I am not intoxicated, rather than some cop’s videotaping of me walking clumsily.

  17. #17 |  Elemenope | 

    I know where I live (Rhode Island) last I checked at least, you could demand that the officer take you to a hospital for a blood draw instead of their using the field breathalyzer. You can also outright refuse the breathalyzer/blood test at the cost of an automatic suspension of your license (which, on balance, is a much lesser penalty from that for a DUI; I believe they disembowel you for that).

  18. #18 |  Matt | 

    Get David Bisard drunk again, to 0.25 or so, under controlled circumstances, and measure how long it takes for him to get to 0.19. How hard is this?

    And, regarding this bullshit:
    “Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi announced he had no choice but to drop the most serious charges because Bisard’s blood had been drawn by an *uncertified* lab tech.”

    What’s it take for a cop to be “certified” to extract a victim’s blood on the side of a road? I bet it’s a far lower standard than what’s being demanded of that “uncertified lab tech.”

  19. #19 |  taxpayer | 

    “According to the Star, Brisard does still face a lesser charge of reckless homicide”

    Homicide is less serious than DWI?

  20. #20 |  Matt O. | 

    And now a visual on how much Indy residents now trust the IMPD: http://twitpic.com/2j7kmp

  21. #21 |  A very sad day. - Religious Education Forum | 

    [...] drunk on duty? The charges have been dropped against him for a rather convenient reason. Balko reports: Prosecutors initially filed a host of DWI-related charges against Bisard. But on August 19, Marion [...]

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